2014-04-21

Co.Exist

If Nuclear Power Is Too Dangerous For Land, Why Not Float A Plant In The Ocean?

Want to prevent another Fukushima and get rid of people's "not-in-my-backyard" concerns? MIT researchers say offshore nuclear is the way to go.

When a tsunami surged through the Fukushima nuclear power plant, cutting its systems and leaving an overheated wreck, many people wanted nothing more to do with nuclear energy. Inherently unsafe, they said. To nuclear's fans, however, the disaster was more like a challenge: Find a reactor design that isn't so vulnerable to freak events.

The latest idea is to put the plant where it can't contaminate farmland and isn't likely to be overrun by tsunami-sized waves. Scientists at MIT are proposing a nuclear station five to nine miles out to sea, something that floats by using technology borrowed from oil and gas rigs.

Here is MIT professor Jacopo Buongiorno discussing the concept:

The main core of the reactor would be well below the waterline, so overheating would be next to impossible. If a disaster did strike, the ocean would do the job that Fukushima's electrical systems couldn't. Plus, says Buongiorno, building at sea would probably be cheaper. You wouldn't have to buy any real estate or placate locals through long environmental impact studies. You would build the whole plant in a yard somewhere and float it into place, connecting up a line to transfer electricity to land.

(A Russian group proposed something similar last year, though that concept is more like a barge and would be much closer to land).

Skeptical? Of course. An accident on a floating nuclear rig might make BP's Deepwater Horizon catastrophe seem like a minor disturbance. But then, if you really care about climate change, you do have to at least consider nuclear's low-carbon potential. A floating nuclear plant may be crazy (think of the proliferation risk!). But then dismissing a serious proposal out-of-hand isn't particularly responsible either.

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3 Comments

  • Jamie Clemons

    So contaminate the entire ocean instead of only a few hundred square miles of dry land?

  • Richard Romine

    I don't see this working for two reasons. 1. Its on water, easy to travel if leaked. 2. How would you transfer the power?? we don't have the technology to do that unless you run it to the bottom of the ocean somehow and that's not going to happen.

    Note: Japans meltdown how many people died?? = 0 Consider this, if I wanted to keep you on fossil fuels, how do you think I would do it? 1. convince you wind and solar were the only solution. and 2. Tell you nuclear power is dangerous with no evidence. Ignore the media and read the documents of the incidents. More importantly back to 1. In the 60's the fossil fuels were pushing people to leave nuke and go solar. Why? because they knew solar would cost more fossil fuels and would never provide the ultimate solution to energy, essential you would fall back to fossil fuels because you would be disappointed in wind/solar. Just think about it. I have no affiliation with anyone.

  • Jonathon Cowley-Thom

    As a friend of mine once said; the solution to pollution is dilution. The Earth's biosphere is so massive that hazardous waste of all sorts is better diffused throughout the entire biosphere than allowed to concentrate in one place. I suspect that would make sea-borne power plants safer than their landlocked counterparts.